May 24, 2017

‘Financial terrorist’: Former bank boss acquitted of all charges despite blowing up Irish economy

Fitzpatrick served as chief executive of the now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank for almost 20 years before taking up the position of chairman from 2005 until 2008. He resigned amid emerging details of secret loans he had taken out with the bank.

On Tuesday Judge John Aylmer at Dublin Circuit Court in Ireland acquitted Fitzpatrick of 27 charges of misleading the bank’s auditors and furnishing false information about multi-million euro loans to him and to people connected to him between 2002 and 2007.

© RTDigital Dublin‘Leprechaun’ Max Keiser trolls ‘gold-stealing’ Irish banker (VIDEO)

The judge strongly criticized the investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) in his ruling, the Irish Times reports.

Aylmer said the ODCE fell short of the “impartial, unbiased investigation that an accused is entitled to,” he was cited as saying by RTE. He added that key witnesses had been coached and the ODCE had failed to seek out evidence of innocence as well as guilt.

He accused the office, which has the mandate to investigate allegations of breaches of company law, of making assumptions about Fitzpatrick.

The judge also expressed concern that material shredded by the ODCE’s chief investigator during Mr Fitzpatrick’s first trial may have been material that could have assisted the defense.

During the trial the prosecution argued that multi-million euro loans taken out by Fitzpatrick and his family were “artificially reduced” by short term loans from other sources for a period of two weeks around the bank’s financial end-of-year statement.

The prosecution alleged that he failed to disclose the extent of these loans to the bank’s auditors in the years 2002 to 2007. FitzPatrick denied all charges.

In 2014, he was found not guilty of 10 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to a group of investors dubbed the ‘Maple 10’ to buy shares in the bank in July 2008.

Judge Aylmer’s decision was made on the 126th day of the trial – making it the longest criminal trial in the history of the Irish state. The jury is due to return to court tomorrow morning but will be directed by the judge to acquit Fitzpatrick.

Speaking outside court, Fitzpatrick told RTE “it was a long and tiring and difficult time” for him and his family. He thanked his legal team and expressed appreciation to the “media’s restraint in this current trial.”

In 2008 the Irish state issued a blanket €440 billion guarantee of all liabilities in the crippled  banking system. Fitzpatrick refused to apologize to the Irish taxpayer who was forced to foot the bailout bill, blaming the global recession for the circumstances. Anglo Irish was nationalized in 2009.

Max Keiser, host of the ‘Keiser Report,’ previously dubbed Fitzpatrick along with other key figures in the Irish banking collapse “financial terrorists.”

“The people in Ireland are getting hammered by these financial terrorists,” he said.

“We have to expand the Patriot Act, and other financial statutes around the world, to cover financial terrorism.

“To cover Seán Fitzpatrick, because clearly he qualifies. Ireland should recognise that they’ve been victimised by a terrorist attack, and need to respond accordingly,” he told The Journal ahead of a visit to Ireland in 2011.

Jonathan Sugarman, the former Unicredit bank executive who reported liquidity breaches during his first few weeks at Unicredit Ireland, has led criticism of the court decision Tuesday. Sugarman says he repeatedly warned the Financial Regulator that the Irish banking system was facing a liquidity crisis before the financial crash.

Article source:

CEOs of America’s top corporations got their biggest pay raise since 2013

© Toby MelvilleFat cats awarded £5.5mn pay rise in 2015… while average UK pay languishes at £26.5k

According to the research, over the last five years, median CEO pay has jumped by 19.6 percent, not accounting for inflation. That’s nearly double the 10.9 percent rise in the average weekly paycheck for full-time employees across the country.

It also found compensation dropped for nine of the ten companies scoring the lowest on “Say on Pay” votes, where shareholders have the right to vote on the remuneration of executives.

“It’s all out of whack right now,” Heather Slavkin Corzo, director of the AFL-CIO Office of Investment told AP, adding CEOs for major US companies make 347 times more than the average worker.

Compensation experts say boards of directors know they have to pay CEOs similar to what their rivals are making, if not more.

The highest paid executive, according to the survey, was Thomas Rutledge of Charter Communications whose compensation totaled $98 million. The company absorbed Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks last year to become the second-largest cable operator in the US.

Leslie Moonves at television network CBS was the second highest paid CEO. He made $68.6 million, including $63.9 million in bonus and stock awards.

AFP Photo / Yoshikazu Tsuno​Median US CEO Pay tops $10 Million in 2013 – study

Number three was Walt Disney’s Robert Iger who made $41 million. His payment was six percent less than the year before, as slowing growth resulted in a bonus cut.

The fourth highest paid executive was David Zaslav of Discovery Communications, whose networks include TLC and Animal Planet. Zaslav’s compensation was $37.2 million while roughly 70 percent of that was from stock and option awards.

The compensation of Robert Kotick from Activision Blizzard surged 358 percent to $33.1 million in 2016. The pay jump came almost entirely due to $24.9 million in stock awards he received as part of a new five-year employment agreement. This year his salary was cut by 26 percent to $1.8 million after many shareholders said they were upset about how much Activision Blizzard executives were making.

The study included pay data for 346 executives at SP 500 companies who have served two full consecutive fiscal years at their respective companies.

Article source:

OPEC set to extend oil production cuts by 9 months

Private security contractors patrol the US Department of Energy's Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Bryan Mound, Texas © Donna CarsonTrump wants to sell US oil reserves drill in Alaska

On Monday, OPEC’s de-facto leader Saudi Arabia gained support from the second largest producer in the cartel, Iraq. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said he expects no objection from other members.

“The Saudi oil minister’s view seems accurate and no serious objection is expected if at all,” one delegate told Reuters, asking not to be identified as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

“No surprises,” said a second delegate.

The updated agreement can see new countries, including major non-OPEC producer Norway.

”Falih has talked to several countries including Norway, including Turkmenistan, including Egypt, and they have made signs of their willingness to join the collaboration,” Kuwait’s oil minister Essam al-Marzouq said on Tuesday.

Last December, OPEC, Russia and other major producers agreed to curb production by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) for six months from January 1 to support the market and push prices to $60 per barrel.

The deal helped to prop up oil prices above $50 per barrel, giving a fiscal boost to major producers. However, the efforts by OPEC and Russia were undermined by growth in the US shale industry, which is not taking part in the deal.

Oil prices were slightly down on Tuesday, as US President Donald Trump proposed to sell half of the United States’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in the next 10 years and begin drilling in the Arctic.

Brent crude was trading at $53.83 per barrel, while the US Texas Intermediate was trading at $51.11, both losing three cents, but close to their monthly highs.

Article source:

Boeing attempts to block Bombardier from muscling into US market

A Boeing 737 MAX plane is seen during a media tour of the Boeing 737 MAX at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington © Matt Mills McKnight Boeing plans 4,500 job cuts as competition with Airbus gets hotter

Boeing and Canada are in talks over the purchase of 18 Super Hornet fighters this year or in early 2018.

Last week the US Commerce Department started investigating Boeing’s claims the Canadian plane maker dumped CSeries jetliners on the US market below cost.

Bombardier’s 110-130 seat CSeries is aimed at the regional jet market, and the company sees North America as by far the largest single market for its jets.

In its petition, Boeing said Bombardier, determined to win a key order from Delta Air Lines, had offered its planes to the airline at an “absurdly low” $19.6 million each.

According to Boeing, the sum is well below what it described as the aircraft’s production cost of $33.2 million. Bombardier has rejected the allegation.

Following the investigation, the Canadian government suggested it could scrap plans to buy Boeing fighter jets if a United States court ruled against Bombardier.

READ MORE: New Russian airliner set to take on Airbus and Boeing

Some analysts accuse Boeing of carelessly putting at risk billions of dollars of defense work or pandering to growing protectionism.

Others say decades after Boeing failed to prevent European upstart Airbus from gaining momentum with early sales victories in the United States. The company could now see a second rival entering its domestic market if it underestimates the threat again.

МС-21 jet © Alexander AstafyevNew Russian airliner set to take on Airbus and Boeing

They add that the strategic importance of defending Boeing’s core passenger jet business outweighs the diplomatic storm.

“It’s a crucial entry market,” said a person familiar with Boeing’s strategy in taking on Bombardier. “This is the case Boeing might have brought against Airbus 40 years ago. Not taking action at the start led to consequences.”

Boeing is currently before the World Trade Organization with a long-running dispute with Airbus, accusing the company of benefiting from similar “unfair” government subsidies.

Bombardier is “taking a page out of the Airbus strategy book” by trying to muscle into the US market with cut-rate pricing, Boeing said in the petition.

Analysts say the disagreement between Boeing and Bombardier could worsen already strained US-Canadian trade relations.

Article source:

Mediterranean drought leads to spike in olive oil prices

Olive oil production in Greece, Italy, Tunisia and, to a lesser extent, Spain is expected to decrease in 2017 sharply.

© Marcelo del PozoGoing green? 85,000 tons of chemical-brightened olives seized in Italy

“Italy is terrible, Greece is terrible, and Tunisia is terrible. Can you imagine if Spain had also been down sharply?” said Panayotis Karantonis, director of the Athens-based Greek Association of Olive Oil Processors and Packers, as quoted by FT.

The International Olive Council (IOC) expects global output to fall 14 percent in this year, while in Italy production may be halved in the 12 months to September.

Greece will be down 20 percent and Tunisia 17 percent, while Spanish output is likely to face a drop of seven percent.

The limited supply along with the surge in prices has already reined in demand for olive oil in Europe. However, demand in Australia, China and Brazil remains robust with imports increasing rapidly.

According to experts, poor weather, as well as climate change, has had a negative impact on olive output in countries on the Mediterranean.

“We have had bad weather affecting production three years out of the last five,” said Vito Martielli, a grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank, the Dutch bank that specializes in food and agriculture financing.

The expert added that there are supply problems about every six to seven years.

The more persistent declines in output and decreasing inventory levels make the market extremely vulnerable to price rises. The wholesale price for extra virgin olive oil has topped $4,200 per ton.

As a result, in the two years to 2016 retail prices for olive oil all over Europe grew 26 percent on average. Spain saw the sharpest price spike of 36 percent, according to recent data.

Industry experts are warning that this year’s spike in wholesale prices is likely to reach consumers across the globe.

“Over the next coming months the prices in the supermarkets in the US and UK will be higher than two-to-three months before,” Karantonis said.

Article source:

$100 in bitcoin in 2010 now worth almost $73 million

© Bloomberg / Getty ImagesBitcoin smashes record $1900 high on Asian trading fever

The cryptocurrency has reached a new high on Monday, trading at $2,167.24 as of 10:15 am GMT.

The world’s most popular virtual currency first broke the $1,000 valuation four years ago, but later dropped in price as a result of factors, including the implosion of the major exchange Mt. Gox.

Since then bitcoin has regained lost ground, more than doubling its value since the beginning of the year partly due to global political uncertainty and increased interest in Asia. Investors turned to the asset as a “safe haven” against geopolitical risks.

Early investors in bitcoin would stand to benefit the most if they held on to the currency. Those who bought $100 of bitcoin at the 0.003 cent price on May 22, 2010, would now be sitting on around $72.9 million.

While some market observers think the rally will continue, others express concerns the asset may have entered a speculative bubble.

Daniel Masters, director of the regulated investment vehicle Global Advisors Bitcoin Investment Fund told Coindesk that even cryptocurrencies with smaller market caps like litecoin, ether, namecoin and ripple have all experienced strong gains over the last few months.

He said“sentiment [is] too strong,” noting that between this and record prices for cryptocurrencies, a bubble may be forming.

© Global Look PressSkyrocketing bitcoin raises fears of asset bubble

Meanwhile, bitcoin is surging in popularity as the digital payment system that allows users anywhere in the world to transact directly without interference from intermediaries, governments, regulators or central banks.

On Monday Japanese carrier Peach Aviation said that by the end of this year it would start accepting the electronic currency as payment for airline tickets. Latvian airline airBaltic also said it would start accepting payment using bitcoin as it focuses on the customer.

The New York-based parent company of bitcoin options exchange LedgerX, said on Monday it closed $11.4 million in funding led by Miami International Holdings and China’s Huiyin Blockchain Venture Investments.

“In the long term, these strategic investors will help us enter additional marketplaces and territories,” said Paul Chou, CEO of LedgerX.

Article source:

Russia goes to WTO over sweeping Ukrainian sanctions

READ MORE: Russian church leader asks UN, Pope to intervene with Kiev over ‘discriminatory’ religious laws

Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin announced the decision on the sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting, where he met with WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo.

“Russia has sent to the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body and Ukrainian government a request for consultations on restrictions being repeatedly imposed since 2014,” the minister told reporters.

© Valentyn Ogirenko$1bn 2 years: Estimates show Kiev would pay hefty price to block Russian social networks

Kiev calls the restrictions on Russian goods, services, transit and other industries a response to Russia’s alleged role in the ongoing crisis in Eastern Ukraine.

“There are serious grounds to believe,” according to Oreshkin, that measures, undertaken by the Ukranian government, violate its obligations toward the WTO.

“Moreover, the number of anti-Russian measures, their nature and the scope of sectors affected, show that Ukraine systematically and consciously violates its international obligations, ignoring the rules of international trade and other international law standards,” the minister added. “Some of these measures are not protecting Ukrainian economy but instead creating additional problems.”

A request for consultations is the first step of filing a complaint to the WTO. According to WTO rules, the consultations must take place within two months to find a solution to the outstanding issues. If the negotiations are not fruitful, Russia might undertake legal action and file a case to an arbitration group, the minister warned.

The decision came the same week as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko imposed one of the most sweeping bans on Russian companies, including popular social networks VKontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki, used by millions of Ukrainians, as well as cyber security company Kaspersky Lab, search engine Yandex Ukraine, 1C Company, which provides popular business tools, and several other Russian online firms. The main reason for the controversial decision was proclaimed to be “bolstering the country’s national security.”

READ MORE: Ukraine: Banning its way to the promised land

Article source:

Bitcoin smashes record $1900 high on Asian trading fever

© Global Look PressSkyrocketing bitcoin raises fears of asset bubble

The cryptocurrency was trading at $1,951.44 as of 02:33 pm GMT. Its market capitalization has gained $3.7 billion since Monday to almost $32 billion.

Experts link the growing value of bitcoin partly to a surge in trading from Japan and Korea. Tokyo recently approved bitcoin’s use as a legal currency for retailers. Japan and Korea now account for two of the top five bitcoin trading markets in the world.

“Japanese and Korean markets are trading at a strong premium as Asian fever is leading the price. Although scaling and the transaction backlog is an issue – bitcoin is defying its negative fundamentals,” the CEO of Charles Hayter was cited by Finance Magnates portal.

Analysts say political turmoil could also be supporting bitcoin while investors see the asset as a “safe haven” against geopolitical risks.

Experts note a broader boost in the whole cryptocurrency market with the rise of digital currencies such as ripple and litecoin.

“The new developments on litecoin, which is experimenting with alternative scaling solutions may offer a brighter future for bitcoin, and a longer-term price increase, if those similar solutions can be applied to its network,” Aurelien Menant, founder, and CEO of Gatecoin, a regulated bitcoin and ethereum token exchange based in Hong Kong, told CNBC.

The total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies has gained $11.3 billion since Monday to hit $67 billion.

So how much would an early bitcoin investor make if he held on until today? The cryptocurrency traded at 6 cents for most of 2010. So a $100 investment would have bought you 1,666 coins, which are worth over $3 million as of Friday.

Article source:

‘Flammable ice’: Chinese breakthrough could lead to global energy revolution

The successful collection of the frozen fuel was “a major breakthrough that may lead to a global energy revolution,” said China’s Minister of Land and Resources, Jiang Daming.

‘Flammable Ice’ is methane hydrates with molecules of methane gas trapped in a lattice of ice crystals. It can exist only in conditions of very low temperatures and high pressure. One cubic meter of combustible ice is equal to 164 cubic meters of natural gas, according to the US Energy Information Agency.

© Reuters China offers contested South China Sea oil and gas blocks

“It looks like ice crystals, but if you zoom into a molecular level, you see the methane molecules are caged in by the water molecules,” said Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore, as quoted by BBC.

In spite of the low temperature, the hydrates are easily flammable, as the gas encased in the ice catches fire once you bring it to a flame.

The discovery is China’s first success in the mining of flammable ice following almost twenty years of research and exploration, according to the ministry.

The mining site is reportedly located in the Shenhu area of the South China Sea, 300 kilometers from Hong Kong. The miners managed to extract a daily average of 16,000 cubic meters of gas with high purity from the site.

The natural gas hydrate is believed to be the best replacement for natural gas and oil. Moreover, fire ice is more environmentally safe and in large reserves, according to the head of the China Geological Survey Bureau, Zhong Ziran.

READ MORE: Full steam ahead: China plans floating nuclear power plants by 2020

“Many countries along the Maritime Silk Road have a demand for combustible ice mining. With the advanced technology we could help resolve the energy resource problem and boost economic development and exchanges between countries,” said Qiu Haijun, director of the trial mining headquarters, as cited by The Economic Times.

Article source:

Trading halted after 10% plunge in Brazil’s stock market

The decline washed 26 billion real ($7.7 billion) off the market values of Brazilian Banco Itaú and petroleum giant Petrobras.

Brazil's President Michel Temer © Ueslei MarcelinoBrazilian president Temer refuses to resign amid corruption probe

“Brazilian stocks and assets and their currency have rallied very strongly up until really today. It’s a big pullback, and it at least brings the risk up to the surface again,” said Alliance Bernstein Managing Director of Equity Product Management Eric Sprow, as quoted by Reuters.

The Brazilian currency plunged eight percent to 3.38 against the US dollar, the real’s lowest level in five months. At the same time, the yield on the country’s 10-year dollar bond swelled almost nearly 53 basis points to a two-month high of five percent.

The sharp declines were reportedly triggered by fresh allegations of President Michel Temer’s involvement in the unfolding bribery scandal.

On Wednesday, local media reported the president had been recorded endorsing the bribery of a key figure in the so-called Lava Jato scandal, which covered big sectors of Brazil’s business and political leadership.

Operation Lava Jato is a probe into allegations of corruption at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras.

President Temer has denied the allegations and refused to resign.

Economists at UBS Securities and JPMorgan Securities downgraded recommendations on Brazil’s equities to ‘neutral’ amid substantial risks that ambitious pension and labor reforms wouldn’t be immediately implemented.

“For the market, it’s not a question of whether Temer will be ousted or not. The question is whether it will be quick and for how long reforms will be delayed,” said Thiago Castellan, a trader at Sao Paulo-based Renascenca brokerage.

Article source: